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Imaginary Numbers

By Graeme Lottering All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure


Where does life come from? Some speculate it all started from asteroids carrying biological matter. But can life be made in a lab? Dr. Charles William Borgiac believes so. When an experiment in the lab goes wrong, there is a hunt for an artificial life form on the loose in Geneva. Meanwhile, as Professor Borgiac investigates reports of a mysterious girl who fell out of the sky in France, his own identity is stolen by an imposter. This story questions the meaning of identity, and takes the reader on a grand tour across Europe and Africa, into the dark recesses of an ancient secret society.

30,000ft over Northern Europe

With a loud popping sound, a thunderous tear in the heavens, she opened her eyes and witnessed suspended beneath her, the subtle curve of our beautiful planet. A thousand feet below, clouds formed waves billowing across the stratosphere.

She was falling.

Above her was the deep, empty vacuum of space—a profound blackness contrasted against the golden ripples of sun reflecting off the blue waters and the luminous white cloudscape.

It was hard to breathe. Her lungs were empty, struggling for oxygen in the thin atmosphere. For the first time she became self aware. Her form thrashed around passing through turbulent changes of density as the air becomes thicker. She was vibrating. It was hard to see. Everything was shaking, roaring, and bathed in a præternatural glow.

Suddenly, she spun around and faced the bright arc of the Milky Way, her arms and legs flapping upwards. She felt for a parachute, grasping for the release chord on her back.

Then she realised that she was naked. There was no parachute. She wondered why she was naked.

She saw her black hair forming a veil, outlining the speed with which she was descending. She flipped again; this time more deliberately. She was disoriented, and tried to regain some sense of the what was going on.

Did she fall out of a plane? Why was there no parachute?

Momentarily she considered, with all its grave implications, the prospect of dying.

The geography of the planet was approaching fast, zooming in on a marshy area beside narrow rectangles of ochre, umber, and green, stretching to the horizon, to the sea. She wondered if she has a family. She imagined for a moment a man with strong hands holding her, but it was merely a fantasy. The more she tried to recall who she is, the more her mind wanders into fiction. She could not remember anything.

She plummeted through the ocean of clouds, passing the foggy barrier.

I am like this mist, she thought, a tabula rasa. The dense whiteness felt cool, and left her skin covered in a dew, which dripped upwards, back into heaven, as if those raindrops were unready to make their trip towards the sea.

Below her, the earth was approaching fast. She spun around in the air, seeing tall mountains in the distance; the sea was a golden reflection, a strip spanning a quarter of the immense horizon.

She could feel her heart beating rapidly—pounding out a dirge in her chest.

She was frantically trying to find meaning in the situation: Why this brief existence?

The shadowy land filled most of her vision. It was a sinister reminder that below her, her doom awaits. Gravity is a force so powerful. It has no mercy. It is not something that we can reason with.

She thought this, then gave up trying to understand. Her mind was clear, emptied of any expectation she might have had of her brief, atypical life. Now she was merely a vapid carcass, dropped by God himself. She closed her eyes, trying to avoid the growing contours of the map she saw below.

She could not recall who she is, or why she was falling, but the irrefutable fact of her ominous descent was still felt over her skin, in her lungs, and by a lesser known sense telling her which way is up. Her body felt warm despite the rush of air, tugging at every hair on her exposed body.

She was afraid of opening her eyes. There is only one thing she could do now: wait.

The sounds of the air changed. Then she heard birds chirping.

Then with an intensity of force that simultaneously obeys and disregards the laws of physics, she slammed into the soft bog, crashing through the tall grasses, the compounded biological mattress forming the marshlands of Northern France. The impact could be heard by people walking their dogs or riding their bicycles next to the farm roads.

The shockwave of her fall rattled windows along the cobblestone streets of the town of Beloeuie, 5km away. An old lady fell out her window, trying to grab her antique vase, which tottered back and forth just like it was an earthquake that had struck the town.

And somewhere in the distance, just before hitting the ground, a bright light cascaded in the sky, signalling the trajectory of a woman with no clothes, no past, and no reason to exist.

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1. 30,000ft over Northern Europe
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